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January 4, 2022updated 07 Jan 2022 6:30am

Ecuador revokes environmental permit for Rio Magdalena project

The environmental permit for initial exploration phase for the project was granted in 2017.

By Archana Rani

The Constitutional Court of Ecuador has reaffirmed the revocation of the environmental permit for Cornerstone Capital Resources and state mining company Enami for the Rio Magdalena Project.

The environmental permit for the initial exploration phase in the Los Cedros protected forest at the project was initially granted by the Ministry of Environment (ME) in 2017.

The Rio Magdalena project forms three of the nine concessions within Cornerstone’s Ecuadorean subsidiary Cornerstone Ecuador SA (CESA) and Enami EP strategic exploration alliance (Enami – CESA SEA), in north-west Ecuador.

In 2019, the permit was challenged by the Municipality of Cotacachi in the province of Imbabura at a local court. It had sought a court order to revoke Enami’s environmental registration by the environment ministry, citing failure to undertake prior consultations with local communities.

As a result, the lower court issued a ruling that invalidated the environmental registration for the project.

The lower court’s decision was later challenged by Ecuador’s state-owned mining company in the Constitutional Court, citing that no such consultations were required for the early-stage exploration phase, and only an environmental registration permit was required for this purpose.

Subsequently, in December 2021, the Ecuador Constitutional Court revoked the water and environmental rights for the Rio Magdalena concessions.

Advocacy group Rainforest Action Group official Liz Downes had then said: “Mining activities – even at early exploration stage – in the high-altitude cloud forests and grassland regions of the Ecuadorian Andes risk contaminating and depleting the water sources of local communities and the farms they depend on, as well as risking the extinction of thousands of endemic and endangered species.”

Following the revocation of permits, Cornerstone filed a petition in the same month to the Constitutional Court, seeking clarification of the effect of its decision.

Work at the project has been suspended since March 2021.

Cornerstone said it is now consulting with legal counsel to assess possible rights and remedies that could allow them to continue exploration at the Rio Magdalena project.

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